Movie Review – Donnie Brasco

Posted: May 26, 2013 in Movie Reviews
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Mike Newell who made a brilliant Four Weddings and a Funeral and worst of the Harry Potter Movie, an utterly disastrous Goblet of Fire was initially skeptical about making this movie. He himself had thought that the movie would resemble Goodfellas and audience would reject it. How wrong of him. Yes we do get reminded of Ray Liotta when we see Johnny Depp here but Ray Liotta in Goodfellas is someone who fancies being a gangster whereas Johnny Depp gets pulled into mafia. It’s not his life time aim to become a ‘made man’ like Liotta.

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Newell himself having considered the movie similar to Goodfellas I’ll take the right to compare Donnie Brasco with that name. It’s not a charming movie like Goodfellas. We could see melancholy right from the start of titles. It’s the story of two lonely individuals. Nicely done credits at the start. A single word pops up and then the whole sentence comes to the frame with the background of Al Pacino and Johnny Depp deeply involved in something. We see a montage of pictures and which ends with a close up shot of Johnny Depp’s Eyes. The start and end of the movie ends with the same shot.

Joseph Pistone calls himself Donnie Brasco and acts as a jewel thief to get into the mafia and exploit their whereabouts. It doesn’t take much time for Donnie to infiltrate the gang. He easily gets the approval of Lefty and becomes a con man. There is no surprise in the film as to who is going to do what. We know that Brasco is an undercover agent and Leftie is a lonely gangster. It’s about how they lead their lives after fate decides to take a u-turn.

Even though the movie is a sad one it certainly has its moments. Especially the forget about it sequence. It was one of those damn funny scenes associated with mafia movies. We see a Japanese getting beaten up here just like the waiter scene in Goodfellas but it’s at this point Donnie’s life takes a turn. If he had been in the same situation as a policeman he wouldn’t have reacted in that way when the Japanese hits him. He would’ve have been allowed to be in that way if had posed as a policeman. The first touch of warm blood on his face makes him realize that he could be more at home with made guys than to be with super busy FBI Agents.

Though the director makes us respect Donnie’s choice we still feel that he’s going to a wrong end. The family is in shambles as expected. We could perfectly understand the plight of Pistone’s wife. Anne Heche as Maggie Pistone was brilliant in doing justice to her role. She would have had a lot of films for her to refer but still she maintains the uniqueness. After all every family has problems and each one is unique isn’t it.

In addition to Depp and Pacino there is a brilliant supporting cast made of Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, Paul Giamatti and James Russo. The core strength of gangster film lies with these supporting actors. Of my entire favorite was Michael Madsen. Even he didn’t have much screen space he excelled in those few scenes where all he did was only staring at Sonny. I also would like to say that I wasn’t interested with the selection of to play Sonny. He looked least bit like a gangster.

Donnie Brasco is a film for performers. When Johnny Depp could do roles like this why would he make movies like Pirates of the Carribean where he’s a laughing stock. I’ve enjoyed few of his collaborations with Tim Burton but there I could never take him seriously. He was perfect here. Apt to the role. He had so much to do here and he took the responsibility and performed with ease. But we get to see why Al Pacino is a brilliant actor in this movie. The scene where he explains to Donnie showing the paper cutting and having the gun to his head was brilliant. Only he could do it. This movie definitely comes to the top of my list of best Al Pacino movies. If not for anything else I could see this movie only for him. That’s how much exuberance an actor can bring to a movie.

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